WEBTOON, one of the biggest forces in digital comics, decided to belittle fans and creators for some reason. The fallout was so bad, WEBTOON issued a public apology. Earlier today, writer/artist Kennedy Homan posted a photo of a subway ad from the company.
The image glibly declares “comics are literature’s fun side-hustle.” For Homan, who has a comic called “Andy Bass” on the platform, this ad belittled the amount of work they do. Within a few hours, the post went viral.
Not only is this advertisement insulting, it also doesn’t make sense. If the company is suggesting comics are not that much work to create, its a pretty egregious falsehood. As Homan and many other creators will tell you, the time and effort to make comics can be brutal. Its no secret that comics are a deeply under appreciated art, and their creators aren’t paid nearly enough. Other creators also chimed in to cry foul on the ad’s message.
On top of being a gross way of trying to make comics sound hip, it also insults fans. It’s bad enough that comics, for as much influence they hold in pop culture, don’t get respect as legitimate literature. No matter how successful comics become, they still have a stigma of being an “immature” form of reading. Especially in many English speaking countries, who don’t see the value of the medium the way that other territories do.
And here’s industry giant WEBTOON, advertising itself, using the same condescending language themselves. Its trying to sell a medium to new audiences by promoting the view that it is cheap and disposable entertainment.
It didn’t take long for WEBTOON to see the negative reactions and respond. Within hours of Kennedy Homan’s post going viral, WEBTOON put out a statement.
The whole thing screams of an advertising campaign that wasn’t checked before release. Given the history of the company which first started in 2004 in Korea, its hard to believe upper management sees comics this way. More likely it was farmed out to a marketing team that fell back on the same dumb clichés to get people’s attention. It worked, but in the worst way possible.
Hopefully, they will figure out a way to sell the app in a way that respectfully champions the power and possibilities of digital comics, webtoons, and manga.